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WeHo News
Monday November 7, 2011

Evictions Over Smoking Specious

Op-Ed by Larry Gross, Los Angeles California
Vol. 7 Issue 20

Once again, Steve Martin has stooped to political opportunism to drum up opposition to some City Council Members by providing erroneous information to West Hollywood residents.

This time he is willing to bring needless fear and anxiety to renters, falsely claiming that they may be on the verge of eviction.

Larry Gross is Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES).
In his WeHo News article “Where there’s smoke, there’s Heilman/Land (11/3/11),” Martin incorrectly states that a recently passed state law, SB 332 (Padilla) will allow landlords to evict West Hollywood tenants who are smokers.

Martin, no doubt, has his head up a cigarette butt on this one.

Tenant groups around the state, including the Coalition for Economic Survival, worked extensively and successfully to ensure that this legislation would not undermine local rent control laws in California, such as West Hollywood’s law.

As a result, the state legislature approved an amendment to the bill to ensure that smoking tenants in jurisdictions with just cause eviction provisions, which are included in every rent control law, cannot be evicted.

That provision is as follows:

SEC. 2.

(c) A landlord who exercises the authority provided in subdivision

(a) to prohibit smoking shall be subject to federal, state, and local requirements governing changes to the terms of a lease or rental agreement for tenants with leases or rental agreements that are in existence at the time that the policy limiting or prohibiting smoking is adopted.

(d) This section shall not be construed to preempt any local ordinance in effect on or before January 1, 2012, or any provision of a local ordinance in effect on or after January 1, 2012, that restricts the smoking of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

Given the fact that West Hollywood’s rent control law prohibits any change in the terms of tenancy without a tenant’s approval, renters, contrary to Martin’s ranting, do not have to worry about being evicted if they are smokers.

I attempted to provide this information to the resident who is leading the charge on this in response to a number of emails she sent to me.

Apparently to no avail.

I find it amusing that Steve Martin is continuously trying to re-invent himself as a tenants’ rights advocate.

Once more a reminder is needed that Martin has an anti-rent control history.

During the West Hollywood Cityhood campaign he helped develop an opposition group whose positions were more favorable to the business community and landlords, and advocated for a much weaker and ineffective rent control law.

Martin, at the time, even wrote an article in “Apartment Age,” the magazine of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, advocating that West Hollywood should embrace a weaker form of rent control.

During his term on the West Hollywood City Council, Steve Martin was, in a sense, the landlords’ “go to guy.”

Mr. Martin advocated for and supported measures to weaken rent control, kill a needed affordable housing project and fire the city’s Rent Stabilization Director.

The Rent Stabilization Director had an impressive track-record of upholding tenants’ rights and was firmly committed to implementing and enforcing the city’s rent control law.

During his recent failed City Council campaign, Steve Martin proposed that the Rent Stabilization Administration should no longer be self-funding, move that could threaten the entire operations and enforcement of the rent control law.

The defunding of rent control is a position that he raised while previously serving on the City Council.

Mr. Martin also suggested that taxpayer dollars be used to provide grants to landlords with low rents.

Steve Martin is like a leopard that has not changed its spots.

Tenants couldn’t trust Martin during the Cityhood campaign, couldn’t trust him when he was on the City Council and cannot trust him today.

Martin’s false information regarding the smoking law is just another example.

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